It sounded like a freedom-of-religion case when a Columbus, Texas high school relay-race team was disqualified from the state track championship because Derrick Hayes pointed heavenward after his team won the race. That would seem odd in a red state like Texas. It turned out that officials were so strict, they warned runners to make no hand gestures after the finish line. Hayes had apparently pointed forward, and then upward, and for that he was out.
It can be tough to be a student in today's public schools. Never mind restrictions on the schools. It is becoming impossible to express a socially conservative or Christian viewpoint -- as a student. Across the land, everyone is ordered to welcome without a discouraging word any expression of the gay or transgender variety. But try to say the G-word or oppose abortion, and watch someone lower the boom.
--In Minnesota, a sixth-grade student was prohibited by her public school from distributing pro-life pamphlets during lunchtime. One of the fliers read, "Save the baby humans. Stop abortion."
A few days later, she was called into the school director's office and told that some students find pro-life fliers offensive and that she was no longer allowed to pass them out during or after school hours, even if other students requested them. In an email to the student's parents, the school's executive director claimed that the content of the fliers was inconsistent with the school's educational mission.
"The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech," the director wrote. "In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech."
Lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on May 3. "Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas," said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. "The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs."
--In New Mexico, a group of evangelical high school students aligned with the "Church on the Move" lost a round last month in their fight to give classmates two-inch "fetus dolls" with a pro-life message attached. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school district's authority to stop the doll distribution. Why?